YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki is apologizing to the LGBTQ community in the wake of the company’s failure to take more definitive action against conservative pundit Steven Crowder’s channel.
“I know that the decisions we made was very hurtful to the LGBTQ community and that wasn’t our intention at all,” Wojcicki said at the Code Conference in Scottsdale, AZ today. “That was not our intention, and we were really sorry about that, and I do want to explain why we made the decision we did.”
(Disclosure: Vox is a publication of Vox Media, which also owns The Verge.)
Wojcicki’s comments come after Vox host Carlos Maza tweeted a video compilation of Crowder making homophobic comments about Maza, including calling him a “lispy queer.” YouTube responded via Twitter about the situation, saying that, although the company didn’t agree with the statements Crowder made, his content didn’t violate the company’s policies. The decision led to mass outcry from YouTube creators, critics, and even employees at Google who signed a petition against YouTube’s decision.
Wojcicki was pressed about her apology by Axios’ Ina Fried, who asked the CEO to further expand on her apology.
“I’m really, personally very sorry,” Wojcicki said. “YouTube has always been a home of so many LGBTQ creators, and that’s why it was so emotional. Even though it was a hard decision, it was harder that it came from us — because it was such an important home. And even though we made this decision, we have so many people from the lGBTQ community. We’ve always wanted to openly support this community. As a company we really want to support this community.
“It’s just from a policy standpoint we need to be consistent — if we took down that content, there would be so much other content that we need to take down.”
Everything comes down to context, according to the CEO. Wojcicki said that context is important in deciding when to take action against a channel. For example, rap videos and late night shows often contain words or content that could be considered harmful. Contextually, those videos are fine. It’s the same defense that Crowder and his supporters, both creators and fans, have used, too.
“Even though it was a hard decision, it was harder that it came from us — because it was such an important home.”
Still, even though Wojcicki believes they made the right decision, the team decided that Crowder’s content wasn’t appropriate for monetization. YouTube’s team decided to stop running ads on Crowder’s channel. Wojcicki told Recode’s Peter Kafka that she agreed “it was the right decision” to leave Crowder’s channel up, but remove ads. A follow up video from Crowder about the situation found the pundit stating that his videos rarely received monetization prior to the controversy because of his content’s subject matter. Crowder makes a portion of his revenue from selling merchandise, including a shirt that reads, “Socialism is for F*gs.” It’s a facet of the conversation that Maza called out on Twitter following the decision.
“Demonetizing doesn’t work,” Maza tweeted earlier in the week. “Abusers use it as proof they’re being “discriminated” against. Then they make millions off of selling merch, doing speaking gigs, and getting their followers to support them on Patreon. The ad revenue isn’t the problem. It’s the platform.”
“We looked at a large number of these videos and we decided they were not violative of our harassment policies.”
Still, YouTube is looking to re-evaluate its harassment policies in the wake of the situation. The CEO also said that “when we change policies, we don’t want to be knee-jerk,“ adding that “we need to have consistent policies” that are continuously enforced.
“Steven Crowder has a lot of videos, and it took some time for us to look at that and understand it in the context of the video because context really, really matters,” Wojcicki said. “We looked at a large number of these videos and we decided they were not violative of our harassment policies.”
When asked if this was an area that YouTube could get a handle on, Wojcicki said there is room for YouTube to improve, but added that she believes the company and the platform have come a long way.